NEW YORK — August 18, 2012. General Electric “brings good things to life” — GE’s bargain priced nuclear reactor certainly lit up Fukushima — but activists argue that NBC, GE’s media arm, has created a monster with the new “reality” show “Stars Earn Stripes.”
In an era of “embedded journalists,” “clean nuclear energy,” and “surgical strikes” done via remote control predator drones, one shouldn’t be surprised that the media arm of General Electric is promoting its own brand of militarism. Indeed, there are so many ironies to be found in following a story about a “defense” contractor giant producing television shows that a writer might run out of double quotes — long before the “defense” contractor runs out of cash or conflicts to profit from.
By way of background, GE, number 17 on Aero-Web’s list of top 100 defense contractors, got $1,425 million from the defense budget in 2012.
But GE is not just about building weapons.
According to wikipedia, “In 2011, GE ranked among the Fortune 500 as the 6th largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue, as well as the 14th most profitable. However, the company is currently listed the 3rd largest in the world among the Forbes Global 2000, further metrics being taken into account.”
GE subsidiaries include: GE Capital — the firm that lent St. Vincent’s Hospital into bankruptcy, and then sold SVCMC prime real estate to developers leaving Manhattan’s West Side without a trauma center (as Mayor Bloomberg looked on), GE Energy — which produced the cutrate Mark 1 nuclear reactor that devastated Fukushima (23 such plants reside in the U.S.), and NBC Universal.
NBC, the network that has helped to significantly expand the concept of embedded journalism (an oxymoron if ever there was one) recently unveiled its latest “reality” show: a celebration of militarism that is a not-so-thinly-veiled advertisement for military recruiting. The “Amphibious Assault” episode is available online and, disturbingly, is preceded by an advertisment for “back to school” specials.
The newest reality show features “real heroes” with “real bullets.” The premise – “minor” celebrities are trained for combat by active duty special forces personnel – is as ridiculous as any other reality show. But the Wagnerian score and shoot-em-up feel is bound to appeal to youth looking for adventure. War and the weaponry of war are glamorized and romanticized.
Perhaps the most telling commment came from one of the show’s participants.
Actor and former teen pop idol Nick Lachey said, “Nothing prepares you for battle like a boy band.”
While none of the contestants are likely to suffer Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, loss of limbs, or death at the hands of their “allies,” they are doubtless being well compensated for their part in this new entertainment offering. Underscoring the artificiality and perverse absurdity of the show is the fact that other contestants have labeled Todd Palin (Sarah’s husband) “Rambo.” And for his part General Clark comes off as a weird mixture of Bob Barker and Dr. Strangelove.
Slick hollywood paper tigers being trained by real life SEALs and other SF vets can’t hurt NBC’s, or GE’s, bottom line. But the show has offended many, including nine Nobel Prize laureates who are calling on NBC to cancel it.
In August, Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams (1997), Mairead Maguire (1977), Dr. Shirin Ebadi (2003), President José Ramos-Horta (1996), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), President Oscar Arias Sanchez (1987), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992) and Betty Williams (1977) all signed an open letter to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, producer Mark Burnett, and General Wes Clark — who ran for president as a Democrat in 2004.
The Nobel Nine’s letter argues that Stars Earns Stripes “expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.”
“Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining,” the letter said.
On August 13 activists from Military Families Speak Out, the Granny Peace Brigade, Veterans For Peace, US Labor Against The War, and other organizations demonstrated outside NBC corporate headquarters in Manhattan, the day the first episode aired. The activists attempted to deliver a petition to NBC but their efforts were rebuffed.
Activist and NLN journalist Fran Korotzer was there.
“We had a petition with 18,000 names asking them to cancel the show but we weren’t allowed to present it. We watched the first 15 minutes of the show — it is worse than expected — landing on beaches in inflatables, full camouflage, shooting, helicopter coverage, bombs. Horrible,” she said.
Activists will be returning to NBC for another protest on Monday, August 20 — they will vigil from 5 to 7 p.m.
Anyone wishing to take part will find the activists at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the address of the GE Building, in which the NBC Studios are located.